Shakespeare and Shabbat

May 16, 2015

Shakespeare’s Macbeth described a life not worth living when he said:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death.

Out, out, brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.


Macbeth tells us here how life can become a deadly drudgery. Two things: Meaninglessness is one, and monotony of each day being the same is the other. But every week, Shabbat comes to give us our life back—if we will only receive it. How so?

First, by making one day out of seven irretrievably and utterly different from all of the rest, Shabbat uproots monotony. If every day were just the same as the others, our days and our lives would lose value, with us being prisoners of the clock whose lives creep “in this petty pace from day to day of the last syllable of recorded time.”

And because Shabbat schools us in the miracle of creation, and the God who created the entire fabric of reality, who redeemed us from Egypt, and gave us the richness of Torah, Shabbat rescues us from meaninglessness, inviting us to celebrate and enjoy the created order, and redemption, and revelation, gifts from the Author of life.

On Shabbat we stop our making, our doing, our creating, so that we might reawaken to the texture of what God has done, is doing, and will do, and celebrate Him every day, but especially Shabbat. It is like turning off your IPod so you might hear the crickets. Reawakened to life’s subtleties and textures, we can then turn to the other six days of the week retuned to the richness of life.

So let us welcome the Sabbath Queen. She comes bringing us life in all its fullness.

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